Torah Study Notes 9-6-14

A NOTE TO READERS. THESE TORAH STUDY NOTES ARE INTENDED TO BE READ IN CONJUNCTION WITH PLAUT’S THE TORAH – A MODERN COMMENTARY – REVISED EDITION. ALL SESSIONS ARE LED BY RABBI PAUL GOLOMB. AN ATTEMPT HAS BEEN MADE TO RECORD COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS FROM CLASS PARTICIPANTS. ALL ERRORS ARE MY OWN AND CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.
September 6, 2014
p. 1322
21:10 How to treat a woman captured in war. Did this capture of woman have a basis in social reality? Israel was not acquiring land at the time – and was a territory of Persia. Accordingly, any discussion of the ethics of war is theoretical. Material gain is not enough to justify war. Note that marriage usually has an economic component in terms of the merger of two estates. Here the only value is in the woman herself.
21:15 If a husband has two wives… He must accept the first born – even if of an unloved wife. This is an explicit challenge to the story of Jacob – where the first born is passed over for Joseph albeit not in terms of inheritance. AF: It is not clear what “loved” and “unloved” means here. PG: The Hebrew word here is actually “hated” but the translators don’t use that. CL: In China at one time the north practiced monogamy and polygamy was practiced in the South. This was about 500 AD to 700 AD Even though the North came to rule during unification in 700 AD during the Tang dynasty the entire country eventually became polygamous in the Sung. Some scholars think that the cost of an extended household may have sapped resources during a time of war. PG: Monogamy became normative in Israel but it is not clear when.
21:18 If a parent has a wayward and defiant son… SF: The wayward son is economically threatening to the parents is what we were told by you several years ago in reading this parsha. PG: That is correct. Think of the injunction from the Ten Commandments to honor your parents. Loss of one’s land is devastating to a family. There is also an indication that society has a right to intervene in the relationship between parent and child – but only where there are serious ramification to the society itself. LL: Are there any artifacts indicating how land is held or passed to the next generation from this area/location. PG: In terms of post-exilic ownership it would be assumed that the Persian law would apply. Consider the Ketuebah – or marriage contract.
21:22 If a man is guilty of a capital offense… you shall not defile the land that the Eternal your God is giving you to possess. The most obvious reason for capital punishment is revenge. But that is not deemed a sufficient reason. See footnote 22 and 23.
22:1 If your fellow Israelite’s ox goes astray… CL: this is not a world that most of us would want to live in. Even where Moses – or the writer – is trying to come up with gentler solutions and to impose some order on the society the outcome is not very acceptable by today’s standards in civilized society. LL: What is being suggested here is a process wherein we examine society and extant mores and customs and devise new solutions to fundamental problems. That is the meta-lesson that has been adsorbed and why we are now discussing how lethal injections are implemented. It is that fundamental process of self-examination and the development of new laws that makes us civilized.
22: 4 and 5 More rules of conduct. But what about when society’s standards change? Obviously the rules can change as well. Hence transgender people are no longer considered abhorrent to God. Maintenance of the social weal is the goal of social rules of conduct.
22:6 You come across a birds nest – don’t take the mother – only the fledglings. In order that you may fare well and have a long life. Consider the story of Elisha ben Boulia – a post Mishnaic sage – who sees a young person attempting to return a bird to its nest – falling out of the tree and dying. At this point he becomes an apostate and a cynical investigator – someone who is seeking an empirical truth. One can in fact have one’s life shortened by trying to do something good. What does that imply? How long is the life that you deserve? It is problematic to assume that there is any one to one relationship between our activities and our continued life. LL: I like the Darwinian notion that death is a part of life. Without death there can be no evolution.
22:8 When you build a new house you shall make a parapet for your roof… etc. More rules for daily life. What are our responsibilities to others? How is order maintained?

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1 Comment

  1. ibritter

     /  September 7, 2014

    With Gaza we are creating widows and orphans, but it doesn’t seem the proper way to treat them is clear. Wish there was more discussion about that.

    Reply

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